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The 6 Iconic Kenyan Christmas Meals

Whether you are just curious or want meal ideas for the Christmas holidays, this post is exactly geared towards that. It features the 6 main and popular dishes served in the Kenyan Christmas holidays

Isn’t it too early for Christmas meals? Yeah right, I mean it’s late November. The real question is; Isn’t it too early for malls with Christmas decorations up since November 1st? Anyway…

During Christmas we don’t eat ordinary peasantry dishes like ugali-sukuma, we ascend that day with specials mentioned below. You know what else was a peasant dish in ancient Rome? Spaghetti Carbonara!

As you begin contemplating your Christmas meals, you might wonder what to serve this year. Sometimes, looking at what others traditionally eat can help inspire you. 

Let’s get into it

1. Kuku ya Kienyeji

Kienyeji Chicken
Kienyeji Chicken

I miss the days when Kienyeji meant organic-indigenous; that is chicken or vegetable. Kuku ya Kienyeji is simply a free-range chicken. Its meat is generally tougher compared to the broilers from the supermarket.

This is the equivalent of a turkey in American Thanksgiving.

Kienyeji cooks way longer, like for hours before it tenderizes. Also, it tastes 10x better, and its meat has different flavor profiles and textures, it, however, has a specific gamey smell, not distracting but noticeable.

Also, keep in mind that this chicken is normally stewed, there is no grilling roasting, or baking, just stewing.

It tastes way better and in comparison, it makes the broiler chicken taste like a flavored sponge.

The only intimidating thing about kuku ya kienyeji, is you have to slaughter and butcher it by yourself, so if you don’t have skills, I’m sure someone else in your extended family has…If you for instance carelessly pierce the bile, it will spill all over the chicken and make the meat so bitter almost unedible. Or you can just buy a ready-butchered Kienyeji Chicken.

Kuku Kienyeji normally pairs very well with brown ugali especially, but other options are white ugali, chapati, and rice

2. Chapati

Chapati is not necessarily Kenyan or African but more of an Indian food. It is however twisted to African touches here, so yeah, Kenyan Chapati is a little different.

Kenyan Chapati Slices
Kenyan Chapati Slices

Chapati is a flatbread, and a Christmas classic here, it goes well with soups, stews, and curries. 

Kenyan chapati is made with layers, so it is extra flaky and almost crunchy while being soft. This makes it desirable and pairs well with any stew.

For Christmas specifically, chapati is served with beef stew, lamb stew, chicken stew, especially the Kienyeji Chicken stew from above.

Chapatis are honestly complex for most people, those who have made them over and over are the artisans here. 

Since Christmas is all about getting the extended family together, there is usually that one auntie who makes the best chapos, leave that to her and just watch!

3. Mbuzi Choma

For bigger families, kienyeji chicken won’t just cut it, they need a bigger animal and that is where mbuzi choma comes in. 

Mbuzi Choma
Mbuzi Choma

This is basically grilled lamb or goat. It is the better choice as you do not have to slaughter several chickens for Christmas dinner. Goat just makes sense.

The meat from the goat most of the time tends to be in excess, and after some is used to make stews and soups, other parts like legs, thighs, and ribs are perfect for grilling. 

And there is no wastage here if you thought soft organs, blood, and intestines gonna go to waste? That is where you go wrong, stop wasting your time, stop wasting your good time, kwani you catch me like a rat? On the highway, I’ve been driving for over 20s….[unintelligible]

If you are not sassy, you can make mutura from those! Mutura is probably the most worshipped street food that every Kenyan swears by. 

4. Pilau

Pilau is another holy grail in Kenyan cuisine, it has coastal and Swahili roots, I mean it is the dish of choice at events like weddings and parties or get-togethers. 

Swahili Pilau
Swahili Pilau

It is simply an aromatic rice dish with beef and several spices. Pilau is like that distant cousin of biryani that no one talks about.

Pilau unlike biryani is not labor intensive and doesn’t require layering of ingredients. To briefly make pilau, you need good quality rice, beef, and several spices

You can get a ready spix mix blend called pilau masala that combines everything you will need and grinds them. 

While that is convenient, it doesn’t make the best pilau. Better results are attained by using raw whole individual ingredients and combining them by yourself for that fresher and more intense spice flavor.

Some people add random things and skip necessary steps resulting in some sort of monstrosity pilau called Pilau Njeri, especially some food stalls and local restaurants.

Pilau Njeri is not authentic to the slightest. Worse still, some add soy sauce to the rice to give it that brown desired color but it tastes like sheer garbage. 

Read more on how to perfect pilau here.

5. Ugali Nyama

This can go both ways; ugali with nyama stew, or ugali with nyama choma. Ugali with nyama stew doesn’t sound complete, you need to throw in some vegetables to make it a balanced diet. It is that simple.

Ugali Nyama, Sukuma & Kachumbari
Ugali Nyama, Sukuma & Kachumbari

The meat of choice is cooked till tender, almost falling off the bone tender, but it is stewed, then the ugali is our starch filling here, dip it into the stew and it soaks all those flavors, then push it down with several meat pieces!

If you go the nyama choma route, meaning you opted to BBQ your meat, then you will need kachumbari salad for completeness.

Kachumbari is basically a mix of diced onions and tomatoes and optionally dhania( fresh coriander/cilantro). 

If you hate that oniony mouth smell from kachumbari then I suggest soaking your diced onions in vinegar to get rid of the smell before combining them with tomatoes.

Nyama choma is simple, grill meat in a charcoal jiko that is lined with a wire mesh, we use charcoal because we want that smokey taste, now that is what makes Kenyan Nyama Choma distinct- The smokiness!

The dripping juices from the meat above make the charcoal light up a brief two-second flame that grows above the wire rack giving nyama choma that char.

6. Mandazi

On Christmas, we don’t touch bread, I mean we have had that daily since January, but now we switch it to mandazi, the “Kenyan donut” is the simplest way I can define it.

But unlike the classic donut, the mandazi doesn’t have a hole in the middle. Mandazi is just a deep-fried pastry. It is used to accompany hot beverages for breakfast, especially the legendary milk tea.

It is made almost like chapati but differs in ingredients and final stages of dough making.

Mandazi uses baking powder to rise while chapati is literally a flatbread, thus doesn’t need to rise so no usage of baking powder.

The other difference between mandazi and chapati is, that mandazi is sweeter as you add some sugar, while it is optional in chapati, we only add a little sugar to chapatis to balance out the salt needed. You don’t need salt in making Mandazi.

Finally, mandazi is deep fried in oil while chapati is shallow fried in like 1 tbs of oil.


If you feel too fancy and mandazi is too basic for you, go all the way and make mahamri. Mahamri is a mandazi type but better since it uses yeast to rise instead of baking powder, and also uses coconut milk and cardamom in preparing dough, unlike mandazi which just needs warm water and flour.

Read More: Mandazi For Beginners Recipe: No Milk, No Eggs

If interested, check out this Cardamom Mahamri recipe

Explore more Kenyan Dishes for your Christmas options: The 17 Popular Kenyan Food Dishes


Groceries & Staples: 

Review: The 7 Best Green Groceries in Nairobi

Grocery Guide: The 10 Best Wheat Flour Brands in Kenya

Grocery Guide: Popular Cooking Oils in Kenya 

Spice Essentials For Your Kenyan Kitchen: A Comprehensive Guide

If you found this useful then consider checking out more blog articles from the following categories:

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